A one-day symposium aimed at building awareness and promoting the finance leasing sector to expand access to finance for entrepreneurs and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has been held in Monrovia.
The forum, which also showcased investment opportunities in leasing that can help representatives shape the emerging sector in the country, was conducted by the International Finance Corporation’s Africa Leasing Facility, a member of the World Bank Group, in partnership with the National Investment Commission (NIC).
Declaring the forum opened, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai disclosed that the forum was the first major step made by the government of Liberia through the NIC to make finance leasing operational in the country.
He said in its understanding of the benefits of a developed leasing sector, the government has worked to create an enabling environment for finance leasing in Liberia with increased interest, awareness and participation of all local, regional and international stakeholders, which is key to supporting widespread finance leasing opportunities for the private sector.
Mr. Boakai said the private sector is considered in Liberia as the engine of growth and therefore should be given priority.
“As we promote growth, we are mindful that growth is inclusive. With finance leasing, both the Foreign Direct Investment and the domestic private sector will enjoy inclusive growth,” he said.
According to him, the twin shock of the health crisis and the decline in the price of commodities “has compelled us as a government to consider economic diversification. This new approach takes a look at developing key sectors within the agriculture value chain.
“We have reminded all before that the Liberian economy is currently in a process of transition towards higher growth. MSMEs are at the heart of this forward march.
“In the Liberia of tomorrow, we should be able to envision small businesses functioning as a network of waterways that are both a source of innovation, job creation, and channel through which these advantages will flow through to the rest of the economy.
“The need to empower MSMEs thus cannot be overemphasized. No doubt, with MSMEs at their utmost, the spread effect of their productivity will affect many other spheres of national development.”
At the same time, Boakai said finance leasing can and will address the long-term financing needs of MSMEs which are in need of the use of productivity assets to improve agricultural production.
Earlier in her welcome remarks, Etmonia D. Tarpeh, chair of National Investment Commission (NIC) said the Commission is strongly committed to the development of leasing in Liberia as a viable and affordable financing solution for MSMEs that would improve the country’s economy.
“I am delighted that you have taken this time to be with us here in exploring the regime in place to support profitable leasing operations and the enormous business opportunities that Liberia offers for anyone who is interested in starting finance leasing than making business,” she said.
Madam Tarpeh believes that finance leasing provides an alternative means to accessing affordable capital, especially for MSMEs.
“We are pleased to organize this platform dedicated to spreading awareness about leasing and encouraging investment,” she said.
She further said the IFC and the Central Bank of Liberia have been their strong partners in the (leasing) initiative since 2012, adding that “for this, we are very grateful.”
In remarks, Ms. Cassandra Colbert, IFC Country Manager, said: “Access to finance is key to the development of the private sector in Liberia.”
Ms. Colbert told the gathering that finance leasing is a tool that will provide real resolutions for small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Liberia, allowing them to access the capital they need for their businesses to grow.
“I am optimistic that this forum will help raise the profile of finance leasing and encourage investment in the private sector,” she said.
Also speaking, Sebastian Molineus, Director of World Bank, told the gathering that they work with governments, financial institutions, equipment suppliers, insurance providers, and small business owners to help make leasing a viable tool to step up operations, thereby increasing revenue and the ability to add value to local communities.
“We help facilitate the availability of medium to long-time capital for leasing operations by bringing together and offering support to local and international investors interested in entering the financial leasing market in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
Commerce Minister Axel Addy thanked the World Bank for the initiative and said Liberia needs the support to transform its private sector from small and medium to large.
Meanwhile, the leasing investment forum is an initiative of the World Bank Group’s Africa Leasing Facility II program. Since its launch in 2008, the forum has contributed to the drafting of 24 leasing laws, trained 20,000 MSMEs on leasing, and mobilized US$57 million in investment capital in the countries where it operates.
The event was attended by representatives from World Bank Group, the government, private sector and international leasing experts and investors from Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania.